When people learn that I am a wellness coach, one of the most common questions I get is “what should I eat?" As you know, there are hundreds of different diet books, with new ones coming out all of the time. Someone figures out a formula to lose weight and feel better and writes a book about it, which may work for many people, but the truth is that all diets don’t work for everyone. This is why someone may try a diet and gain weight, while a friend may try it and lose weight. The other challenge with diets is that they tend to restrict too many foods, or be too rigid, which makes it hard to sustain once the desired goal of weight loss is reached. So how do you figure out what you should eat? The key is based on the concept of bio-individuality. Bio-individuality recognizes that we are all unique, as are our dietary needs. What makes one person strong and feel great will do the opposite for another person. We have all witnessed this with family or friends who have tried a diet. For example, someone may try a high protein diet with no carbohydrates and feel great and another person will try it and realize that they need carbs to feel well.
So, how do you become your own food detective to find the best foods for you? Following are three tips to get you started.
1. Remember that the first key is to make sure you are eating whole foods. Eating whole foods is the foundation for good health. This means adding in fruits and vegetables, healthy sources of proteins and whole grains. Processed foods deplete us of our energy and fill us up with empty calories. Our body knows what to do with whole foods and this step alone will help you on your way to feeling great!
2. Pay attention to how you feel after you eat. If you eat a food and after twenty minutes or so you feel tired, bloated, gassy, have heartburn, stomach pain, are lightheaded or don’t feel well; you need to pay attention to what foods you had that may have triggered that reaction. Try to remove the possible trigger foods for a few days and then try again to see if it reoccurs. Any food that causes a reaction isn't working well in your body and may not be absorbed properly. People who have celiac or gluten sensitivity will feel the negative effects from food. If you suspect you have an intolerance, you can ask your doctor to test you. The best way to know if you have a food sensitivity is to remove a suspected food from your diet for 3- 4 weeks, and then add it back in and see if symptoms reoccur. Even whole foods that are healthy can make us not feel our best if we have a leaky gut, food sensitivities or other health issues.
3. Pick one meal to experiment with to see how you feel before moving on to the next one. For example, decide you will try different breakfast options for a week and note how you feel. Keep it simple to begin. For example, have scrambled eggs with whole grain toast and a vegetable one morning and the next day remove the toast. The third day, have the whole grain toast and vegetable with no eggs. The fourth day, have a bowl of steel cut oatmeal with berries. The fifth day, have just the oatmeal. The sixth day, have a bowl of mixed berries mixed in some yogurt with some honey and nuts. The seventh day, remove the nuts. You get the picture. The key is to listen to your body. It knows what it needs and by paying attention, you will soon learn what foods work for you and which ones don’t.
As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” What we choose to eat makes a difference. Remember that this is a journey and as you age, your body and what fuels it may change. As you partner with yourself, and make eating enjoyable and listen to how your body responds, you will know which foods to eat and which to avoid for your best health.